When Made Yogantara lost his job after COVID-19 sank Bali’s tourism industry, he had to get creative to take care of his family.
Made, who worked at a popular tourist restaurant, enlisted the help of his uncle – a lecturer in agriculture – and turned a vacant lot owned by his family into a small farm. Nearly two years later, the 26-year-old former bartender is selling organic fruits and vegetables online and at the site.
The 25 square metre (269 sq feet) permaculture garden, I Think Fresh Urban Farms, has enabled Made to stay afloat during the pandemic and even donate more than 20kg (44 pounds) of fresh produce to a recent relief effort for the island’s vulnerable communities.
Before the pandemic hit, Made never thought of venturing outside of hospitality, which in normal times would experience a year-end rush that allowed workers to double or triple their monthly wage. Like many of his peers, he saw few other opportunities for young people on Indonesia’s popular resort island.
“But now young people in Bali will really need to explore. We see and experience it ourselves that we can’t rely too much on tourism,” Made, who was furloughed for seven months before being let go, told Al Jazeera.
Made is far from alone. In 2020, 236,000 people in Bali worked in the tourism sector, compared with 328,000 the previous year, according to data from Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy. That number is unlikely to have improved much in 2021. Despite reopening to international arrivals in October, the island welcomed just 45 tourists in the first 10 months of this year, according to the Central Statistics Bureau of Bali, compared with more than six million international visitors and 10 million domestic tourists in 2019.
The collapse has left young people, in particular, seeking out new ways to make ends meet, according to Irma Sitompul, the co-founder of the Pratisara Bumi Foundation, which runs a nine-month business incubator called INKURI for youth on the island.
“For Bali in particular, we’ve seen how the youth have really struggled,” Irma told Al Jazeera. “Most of the workforce here depends on their income in tourism, and since the sector is hit the hardest, many have become unemployed and aren’t able to find alternative livelihoods.”
“They are also looking for alternatives to tourism because they have seen first-hand how destructive the effect of mass tourism is in Bali, how their ancestral lands are being turned into villas, and how the island is sinking with waste pollution,” Irma added.
Irma, whose nonprofit organisation helps communities set up businesses that prioritise sustainable practices, said the pandemic had inspired many young people to think about starting a small business at home.
According to aljazeera.com